Maxwell Kapachawo is a pastor of Abandoned Grace Ministries. In 2005, he became the first religious figure in Zimbabwe to go public about being HIV positive

Pastor Maxwell Kapachawo (image courtesy of afryka.org)

He is actively involved in the activities of the Zimbabwean chapter of  the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with or personally affected by HIV/AIDS (Inerela). Formerly known as Zinerela+, it now operates as  Inerela+Zimbabwe.

Kapachawo pioneered Zinerela+ in 2004 and the organisation was officially launched in December 2005. Today the organisation is in eight provinces in the country. The local chapter is now headed by Reverend Zvidzai Chiponda from the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

In Zimbabwe some church leaders have been accused of ignoring the HIV/AIDS epidemic among its members and failing to create a platform that allows open discussions about HIV and AIDS.

Kapachawo became sick in 2001. He did not believe that his sickness was connected to HIV. But in 2004, he discovered that it was. He was HIV positive. He said: “It seemed like the end for me. I wanted to die fast before my community knew about it.”  Kapachawo stopped leading his church. But then he spoke to a friend, another church minister. His friend told him that having HIV did not make him a bad person. He told Kapachawo that he should begin to serve God again. Kapachawo attended a conference for religious leaders with HIV. And soon after this, he decided to go back to church. He decided to tell his church that he was HIV positive. He remembers: “Three weeks after I told them, about half the church people had gone for HIV tests. They were happy to have the tests because they had seen life in me.”